INDEX Exclusive - Starsailor
Indie favourites Starsailor are set to headline at The Vicar’s Picnic, Yalding’s Music Festival taking place 20th-21st July. We catch up with frontman James Walsh.
Ever since emerging onto the music scene at the turn of the millennium, Starsailor found a loyal following drawn to their emotionally charged sound.
Led by the vocal talents of James Walsh, their bittersweet melodies proved a commercial success with the band’s acclaimed debut Love is Here narrowly missing the top spot in the album charts.
Despite later experiencing something of a media backlash, their strong songwriting garnered them a fanbase that ensured they were to enjoy an enviable longevity.
Their rising star led to a second album that remarkably involved working with the troubled production genius Phil Spector, who famously brought the best out of John Lennon. However, tensions with the unpredictable maestro meant he fell out with the band – with only two tracks including Silence Is Easy surviving from those sessions. It was to prove their biggest hit to date, exemplifying them at their heart wrenchingly expressive best.
While music scenes shifted around them over the years, they continued to plough ahead – but many believed their fifth album eight years ago could well have been their last. But thankfully, they struck back last year with a new set of confident recordings that saw them make a much-deserved chart return.
With a little assistance from Embrace guitarist Richard McNamara on production duties, Life After All really felt and sounded like the band had never been away.
“It’s just really heartening that after all this time fans are still listening to our music,” enthuses James, who says he is genuinely touched by the support he has received.
“It felt really good to be back with the album, and It was especially great being in the studio with Rick from Embrace as our producer – as sometimes it can feel like you are in there with a school teacher, which wasn’t the case with him.”
The 38-year-old singer admits he had been “pretty ambitious” in the band’s early days, but concedes the ebb and flow of career fortunes has proved both humbling and inspiring.
While the band had been on hiatus for years prior to their studio return, James toured the UK as a solo artist, which he continues this month in Europe supporting Sting.
For many fans, their revival is extremely welcome, with there being a sense that despite scoring successes with their major record label, EMI, the band never quite scaled the heights many believed they deserved.
“People sometime say to us, ‘why didn’t you go on to become as big as people like Coldplay’, but what about the thousands of other bands out that have finished and gone on to get jobs in call centres?
“We are grateful that we are continuing to make a living from our music and it’s something that we still really get a buzz out of doing,” says James, who despite his northern roots, appears to be enjoying family life in London.
Beyond his day job, he says the chance to read a little more and re-discover the long-held passion for seeking out fresh music to fire his own creativity.
“I went through a period of thinking it was too much of a busman’s holiday going to see bands, but I’ve been going to see a lot more lately, like Bon Iver, and First Aid Kit, whom I really love,” says James, who reflects that his own favourite gig so far has been the chance to support U2 in the vast Stade De France surrounding their second album. As for the Garden of England, he adds that the group is keenly anticipating what he hopes will prove a memorable return.
“We’re looking forward to the show – I love festivals, especially when the sun shines and we hope to stick around to see some of the other acts as well,” adds the singer breezily, seeming revived in confidence.
• The Vicar’s Picnic, four stages of fabulous entertainment and more, runs 20th-21st July. For full details, visit www.vicarspicnic.co.uk